New Book Taking Form

abscences making ofI am going to make a book for Cheryl Penn’s Encyclopaedia of Everything. If I understand correctly, this is essentially a small book/mail art collection. Well, the collection seems rather ambitious and not small at all, but the books that are in it are.
When I read about what she is looking for, I immediately thought that I should send her a copy of “absences”, a book that at that time only existed in my mind. I think I mentioned it before: I had the idea for this while making “pots”, the book inspired by a video interview with Edmund de Waal. “absences” is made with stencils, such that the images live in the negative space, are absent, so to say: I covered brown Kraft paper with gesso, but where the paper stencils lay, the brown paper is still visible.

Over the last weeks, more and more stencils accumulated on my worktable, and today I started to put it together. Above you see the prepared surface, next came the text:

abscences making ofThere is a lot of room of improvement here. The text is essentially a dialogue, and I choose different writing for the two persons to make it easier to see who is speaking. This is not very convincing to me, though, and I am pondering using two slightly different colours or not distinguish the writing at all. Also the distribution of the text over the page could be much improved.

But I am not unhappy with how it turned out, on a grander scale, and I guess I will keep it as a first artist copy for now, and give it some covers.

My current setup for this book is not very smart: I will even have to redo the stencils for the next copy (paper was not a smart choice), and the writing is done by hand. The plan is to make more durable stencils from acetone this time. When I first thought of this book, I thought it would end up an edition. But other than making better stencils, I am not sure how I would want to improve the reproduction. And there is still a lot of handwork in there that make an edition look unreasonable. The fact that I am working with stencils, screams “screenprint!” to me, probably because I have been wanting to use screenprint for a while now. However, I am pretty sure that it won’t work with my auxiliary setup that I tried last year. (I thought, I had written a post showing the setup, but all I could find was this article which at least features an image of one of the results.) The problems I see are multitude but just to name one: I don’t know how to reproduce the text which is currently handwritten. I guess to reproduce the text via screenprinting, I would have to invest in more elaborate screenprinting equipment, and I completely lack the enthusiasm of setting up a darkroom in our small house.

I am curious: How do you put text in your books?

8 replies on “New Book Taking Form”

  1. Happy Book´s Day Hilke!

    Is hard question the one about the text, i suggest you to just print it or photocopy it in a way, but , the “accordion sheet ” makes it harder.

    1. Hello, Thé!

      Happy Book Day, to you, too. Do you participate in any way in the celebration?
      Photocopying the text would indeed be very hard, since it comes on top of the gesso. So I would need to produce a blank master sheet with the text from which it is photocopied onto the painted surface. That would mean I’d have to be very precise when painting and later assembling the accordion. Not sure that I could pull that off. I guess it would be easier to write them by hand if that is the only option. But thanks for your thought. I had indeed not considert a photocopier.
      Have you used one for your books so far?

      1. hi Hilke!
        I went to a “storyteller “show in the library yesterday, from a japanese man that told us nice stories of his country.
        I think that was my way of celebrating the book’s day, haha.

        I did something with the photocopy once. But it only was one copy of the book.
        I printed the texts in reverse, like when you only can read them in front of a mirror. Then i went to the photocopy store and photocopy all the texts in high contrast, so the photocopies were very black in the texts.
        Then i cutted a piece of photocopied text put the text side over the blank new page and rubbed very hard from behind with a cotton soaked with a paint thinner called pyroxylin.
        the i moved away the piece of paper and the text was “printed” in the new paper with a washed-out effect.

        i suppose that if you want to use your own calligraphy then you have to scan the text, edit them on the computer and print them in reverse.

        i don´t know the name of that technique, but maybe you can use it.

        1. Ah, a toner transfer, yes, that could work. For my book this os probably not the right thing – I could just write it by hand in the first place. This method seems a good choice to transfer someone else’s artwork or text that is supposed to look printed.
          Interesting technique, though. Thanks for your input! I guess I would like to start a collection of ways people put text into books 🙂

  2. Hello Hilke – looking good!
    Thank you – I look forward to receiving this book for sure – and that there is this commentary behind making the book. As far as text and accordion binding is concerned, I generally include the text in separate folios which are pamphlet stitched into the folds. On such large (long) scale, I may also use digital printing – but this is expensive.

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      I am happy you like the litte teaser 🙂
      Mhm, text in separate folios is an interesting method, for sure. This adds an extra layer, which I am sure can work very well for the right kind of book.


  3. Greetings Hilke– I do so enjoy seeing you work through your creative process. I kind of like the suggestion to perhaps layer the text over the pictures… Hmm…

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